The Outsiders Gangs: Greasers vs. Socs

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  • 0:00 Plot Overview
  • 0:40 The Greasers
  • 1:52 The Socs
  • 2:37 Important Interactions
  • 4:39 No Happy Endings
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Washington

Danielle is a certified English Language Arts educator with 8 years of classroom experience, and has an education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction.

S.E. Hinton's famous novel 'The Outsiders' takes a look at two gangs that are as different as night and day. In this lesson, you'll learn about these two groups and the interactions they have with each other.

Plot Overview

The Outsiders is a novel about a young man's struggle to survive in a world filled with gangs, violence, and poverty. Ponyboy, the narrator, is a 14-year-old boy who happens to come from a dangerous neighborhood on the poor side of town. Ponyboy and his poor group of friends are collectively known as the Greasers. Their rivals, the Socials, better known as the Socs, are rich kids from the west side of town. Throughout the novel, we learn about Ponyboy's many violent interactions with the Socs and how the consequences of being associated with a gang change his life forever.

The Greasers

The Greasers are more than just Ponyboy's group of friends. They're more like a family. In fact, two of the group's members, Darry and Sodapop, are actually Ponyboy's older brothers. Darry, the oldest of Ponyboy's brothers, is also his legal guardian since his parents have recently died in a car accident. Ponyboy's other friends include Steve, Two-Bit, Johnny, and Dallas. Together, this group makes up the gang known as the Greasers.

If you're wondering why Ponyboy's group called themselves the Greasers, it's a reference to the gang's signature hairstyle: long and slicked back, with lots of grease. In many ways, the Greasers are like your modern-day street gang. They commit petty crimes like stealing, and engage in your typical bad boy behavior: fighting, drinking, and smoking cigarettes.

The Greasers are looked at by the people of their community as wild and unruly because of their appearance, their occasional bad behavior, and their poor living conditions. But underneath their tough exterior, the Greasers are just boys who need to feel a sense of family and belonging. This intense need to belong causes them to protect and defend each other fiercely, especially against the attacks of the Socs.

The Socs

You've probably heard the saying 'Don't judge a book by it's cover.' This is certainly the case for the Socs, a rival gang comprised of rich kids from the west side of town. On the outside, the Socs appear to be good kids. They have lots of money, they dress well, and they drive nice cars. Underneath their goody two-shoe exterior, the Socs are really bullies who actively cruise the streets of the Greasers' neighborhoods, looking for opportunities to attack. Like the Greasers, the Socs are often fighting and drinking alcohol. Whereas the Greasers are often emotional about the ins and outs of their lives, the Socs believe in playing it cool to the point of showing no feelings at all. Some of the Socs we meet in the novel are Randy, Robert, Cherry, and Marcia.

Important Interactions

Ponyboy Gets Jumped

In the first chapter of the novel, Ponyboy is walking home from the movies when he's jumped by a group of Socs. Ponyboy states, 'I heard a muttered curse and got slugged again, and they were stuffing a handkerchief in my mouth.' Luckily, Ponyboy's two older brothers as well as several other members of the gang come to his rescue and stop the fight. The scene shows us how far the Socs would go to antagonize the Greasers.

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